Live updates: Omicron accounts for 59% of new cases in US

MIAMI — Officials in Miami-Dade County have opened two new coronavirus testing sites and extended hours at Zoo Miami in response to an increased demand.

“We are working around the clock to make sure Miami-Dade residents have access to testing to protect themselves and their loved ones during the holiday season,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said in a news release on Tuesday.

She said the county has also distributed 152,000 take home rapid test kits.

The Zoo Miami site is open for testing 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said Ron Gonçalves, General Manager for NOMI Health Florida.

Overall, Florida has seen a sharp increase in new COVID-19 cases in the past week.



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ATHENS, Greece — A government committee of medical experts will hold an emergency meeting Wednesday to consider speeding up scheduled restrictions after the daily number of COVID-19 infections more than doubled in a day to set a new record.

A health ministry agency said 21,657 new infections were confirmed in the 24-hour reporting period through 3 p.m. Tuesday, soaring from the record set just the previous day at 9,284.

Thanos Plevris, the health minister, said the rapid spread of the omicron variant was clearly responsible for the surge in cases.

He signaled that new restrictions scheduled to start on Jan. 3 would be launched earlier following the jump in infection numbers.

They include the mandatory use of high-protection masks at supermarkets, public transport, midnight closure for entertainment venues, and strict capacity limits at soccer stadiums, as well as schedule changes and work-from-home orders for government workers.


NEW YORK — The judge presiding over the sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell is citing an “astronomical spike” in the number of coronavirus cases in New York City to explain why she was urging jurors to work longer hours.

Judge Alison J. Nathan said aloud Tuesday what had largely gone unmentioned in her previous requests to get the jury to work an extra day last week and longer hours this week as it decides whether Maxwell recruited and groomed teenage girls to be sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein. The jury declined to work an extra day last week.

Nathan told lawyers that there is a “high and escalating risk that jurors and trial participants may need to quarantine” and that the state of affairs is “simply in a different place” than it was a week ago.

Late Monday, the judge told jurors they should expect to deliberate until at least 6 p.m. beginning Tuesday rather than stopping at 5 p.m., as they had earlier.

Defense lawyer Laura Menninger told Nathan on Monday that any suggestion that the jury stay later “is beginning to sound like urging them to hurry up.”


NEW YORK – U.S. government figures show that the omicron variant continues to account for a growing proportion of new coronavirus infections in the country.

Omicron accounted for 59% of new cases in the U.S. for the week ending Dec. 25, according to updated data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up from 23% the previous week.

The CDC had said last week that omicron already accounted for a majority of new cases in the country. But the agency said Tuesday it significantly lowered that previous estimate based on additional data it collected.

Still, it noted that omicron is accounting for a growing proportion of cases.

The rapid spread comes after the first confirmed case of omicron in the U.S. was identified earlier this month. Studies have provided early hints that it is milder than the delta variant.

His district includes several South Side Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs.


CHICAGO — U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois has tested positive for a breakthrough case of COVID-19.

The Chicago Democrat said in a statement late Monday that he’s “feeling fine,” currently has no symptoms and is quarantining.

The 75-year-old cancer survivor says he’s fully vaccinated and recently received a booster shot. The 15-term congressman underwent surgery in 2008 for a cancerous tumor in his salivary gland followed by months of chemotherapy treatment.

His district includes several South Side Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs.


VALLETTA, Malta — Malta has set a record 1,298 new COVID-19 cases.

Tuesday’s figure tops the previous high of 955 recorded last Friday.

The number of hospitalizations remained relatively low at 82, with just five people being treated in intensive care.

The omicron variant was first detected in the Mediterranean island nation just days before Christmas, prompting officials to impose new restrictions, including permitting only seated events, banning spectators from sports events and closing bars and restaurants at 1 a.m.

From Jan. 17, health passes certifying two doses will be required to access public spaces like restaurants, bars, cinemas, theaters and gyms. Health passes from that date will be limited to three months with two doses, and extended to nine months with the booster.


ISLAMABAD – Pakistani authorities have registered a total of 75 cases of the omicron coronavirus variant in various parts of the country.

The announcement by the National Institute of Health on Tuesday comes two weeks after Pakistan confirmed the detection of the first omicron case in the port city of Karachi.

It said those people who tested positive for the new variant were in isolation and efforts were underway to trace their contacts to contain the spread of the new variant.

It said out of 75 total omicron cases, most were detected in the cities of Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore.


BRUSSELS — Representatives of Belgian actors, performers and cinema operators have launched an appeal against the government’s decision to close movie theaters and other cultural centers over concerns about the coronavirus.

Under a new set of restrictions imposed over the weekend, movie houses, concert halls and art centers were ordered to shut their doors. Some stayed open in protest.

The order came despite the assessment of the scientific committee advising the government that such places pose no extra risk to public health. Events like Christmas markets are allowed to continue, despite their boisterous, and sometimes chaotic, mulled wine parties, while restaurants and bars are allowed to stay open with some new restrictions.

Events like Christmas markets are allowed to continue, despite their boisterous, and sometimes chaotic, mulled wine parties, while restaurants and bars are allowed to stay open with some new restrictions.


BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says his government is buying a million packets of Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill for newly infected COVID-19 patients.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told German news agency dpa in comments published Tuesday that the first deliveries are expected in January.

Lauterbach said the treatment is “extremely promising” because it can head off serious illness with the coronavirus if started early. He said he has initiated the procedure for an emergency authorization of Paxlovid in Germany together with the country’s medical regulator so that it can be used as soon as it is delivered.

The pills have to be started as soon as possible, within five days of the start of symptoms.

U.S. regulators authorized Paxlovid and competitor Merck’s molnupiravir earlier this month.